FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Oct 11, 2019

SHOCKtober Day 11: ALICE, SWEET ALICE (1976)



What's that you say? "Oh, Stacie, I have been reading Final Girl since the very beginning and I have memorized every word you have written! Didn't you already talk about Alice, Sweet Alice during a SHOCKtober celebration?"

To this I say 1) I appreciate your support, but surely there are vastly better things to memorize, such as the lyrics to C.W. McCall's "Convoy" and 2) I did talk Alice, Sweet Alice for SHOCKtober–in fact, it was the very first film I covered for the very first SHOCKtober celebration, all the way back in the heady days of 2005. Remember those days? So young, so innocent we all were! My reviews–I can't bear to go back and read them–were essentially just excruciatingly detailed plot retellings that ended with a sentence or three of "criticism" that amounted to whether or not I found a movie to be scary. Look, that was my litmus test back then! I had never written anything for public consumption before I started this blog, and though I'd seen zillions of movies (horror and otherwise), I never much thought about them formally.

This is not to neg baby Final Girl, believe me! And neither is this to suggest that my writing is now, I don't know, Pultizer worthy. But I certainly hope I've gotten a bit better at this over the (holy crap so many) years, just articulating more effectively why I did or didn't enjoy something. And personally, that no longer boils down to "Is it scary?" I love to be scared by a horror movie, obviously. But I don't think that's the only criteria or benchmark that makes a horror movie worthwhile, you know? The point is, it's nothing short of a miracle that people have stuck with Final Girl through those early efforts, so if that's you, thank you.

I actually don't think I'd watched Alice, Sweet Alice since I watched that cruddy VHS copy for that long-ago SHOCKtober, so peeping it uncut (108 minutes vs 98 minutes) and cleaned up on DVD was a real treat. (Incidentally, I am aware that Arrow Films recently put out a gorgeous Blu-ray, but I found a caseless copy of the out of print Anchor Bay DVD for a mere $0.50, so, hey. I love a bargain!)

Though I always think of this film when I think of iconic slasher films, on this viewing I was struck by the fact that Alice, Sweet Alice is so much more than a slasher film. (I suppose, depending on how strict you are with your "what's a slasher" parameters, the 1976 release date might even put it in the proto-slasher territory.) If anything, it's a giallo-cum-psychological horror film with a light sprinkling of Don't Look Know over it. But however you want to think of or categorize this movie, there is no denying that the yellow rain-slickered killer sports a nightmare-inducing, 100% iconic look and hot dang, the stairwell attack scene is one for the ages.



The titular Alice is a troubled, possibly disturbed 12-year-old who may or may not be responsible for the brutal death of her 9-year-old sister during her Communion ceremony, as well as a series of stabbings that follow.

Alice, Sweet Alice is a deeply unpleasant film, and I'm not necessarily referring to the violence, which occurs fairly seldomly. Of course, when kill scenes do arrive, they are shocking and brutal for sure. It's more the atmosphere of the whole thing–it's all drenched in decrepitude and sleaze, and everyone is so damn loud all the time, yelling at one another and clomping up and down the stairs of the small apartment building where Alice lives with her mother (and sister, before her death). There is attempted child molestation/rape, there is kitten murder, there is child murder, there is filth and neglect.

The most disturbing aspect, perhaps, is that it's all too real. The dysfunction on display in Alice, Sweet Alice is a sad reality for so many, and that was even more true in the 1960s, when the film takes place. There may be actual mental illness at play in young Alice–she is certainly painted as a budding psychopath–but she also suffers greatly from neglect by a father that has moved away and remarried, and a mother who seems overwhelmed and blind to (or refuses to accept) the circumstances of her new family situation. The mother is shocked when Alice confides in a counselor that she's begun to menstruate, but she's often shown refusing to listen to or talk to her daughter, leaving the troubled girl to her own devices. The community puts all of their faith (no pun intended) in the church, seeing it as a type of cure-all shelter, but the homicidal fanatic Mrs. Tredoni proves that ultimately there is no refuge in religion.

What a nasty movie, I tell ya, a real feel-bad kinda flick but I love it regardless. Heck, maybe I love it because it's such a downer. And yeah, I must admit–I also love it because it's scary.   

1 comment:

Miskatonic said...

So, just today I was watching Two Sentence Horror Stories on Netflix. The fourth episode was a slasher whose boogeywomen were obviously inspired by both Alice AND Sweet Alice (sorry. bad joke). Anyway, it wasn't bad and was totally worth 20 minutes of my time. Here's a 16 second teaser: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dUz7Pk9HfWk